Tag Archives: autobiography

FGC #554 Pokémon Go

An abridged timeline of events in my life related to Pokémon Go.

7/16/16

Started playing Pokémon Go. I had apprehensions about playing a game I damn well knew I was going to find addicting, so I didn’t sign up at launch. However, after a number of local businesses asked me how they could capitalize on the “Pokémon craze”, I figured I had to jump on the bandwagon. I choose Team Mystic, as Articuno is best bird.

7/17/16

Found Questionable Statue, the best dang Pokéstop in the whole of the game. Good lil’ statue there.

It's a good stop

7/19/16

Published this nonsense, clearly already hooked by the “fad”.

8/21/16

Evolved a Magikarp into a Gyrados for the first time. There is plenty of water around my local play area, but it’s still worth noting for finally scoring 400 candies.

8/22/16

There was a Snorlax on the boardwalk. It was my first, and, as this was before the radar in P-Go was precise, I literally ran all over town trying to find its exact location in time. I succeeded, but I may have parkoured off a building to do so.

9/11/16

Evolved a Dratini into a Dragonair into a Dragonite. This may have been one of the last Pokémon of Generation 1 to earn its final form in my ‘dex.

6/25/17

Questionable Statue graduated from being a Pokéstop to a Pokégym at some point around here. Very important for my favorite stop to be upgraded.

It's a good gym

10/27/17

Found an errant Sandshrew party on the beach. Pretty sure we celebrated until dawn.

Party time!

12/12/17

I catch Tiny Dancer, a Kirilia that becomes my walking buddy for 352 nonconsecutive kilometers (as of publishing this article).

2/24/18

At my second Pokémon Go Community Day, I encounter Pokémon Fight Club (as chronicled here), and have my first successful Pokémon raid. I get by with a little help from other nerds.

3/25/18

Prompted by interest in having another big raid day (as it was the third ever Pokémon Go Community Day), I hit the boardwalk to hopefully find another “fight club”. I found a raid party, and noticed there was exactly one Team Instinct member in a lobby that was crowded with people from Team Valor and Team Mystic. I asked out loud, “Who’s the Instinct?” and a cute blond replied she was the odd one out. She got a shiny Lugia out of the raid, and I had apparently just met my future wife.

4/15/18

Mareep Community Day was rainy, cold, and altogether miserable. Despite the weather that was only hospitable to electric sheep, there were enough of us to tackle a Latios raid (or maybe Latias. I always get those two confused). One of the people in the raid was the Team Instinct player from the previous month. Given the weather was unpleasant, I asked her if she would like to go grab a coffee to warm up and catch Pokémon from somewhere slightly less freezing. It was super effective.

4/18/18

I caught a Mew on my birthday after finally mastering the excellent curveball throw technique. Exceptional little mirage present.

5/28/18

Participated in my first EX Raid and caught a Mewtwo. It was at Questionable Statue. It was with a certain Team Instinct trainer. It is remembered fondly.

Don't ask my wife about this.  She will laugh.

9/11/18

Caught Corsola in Florida. Definitely did not travel alone.

10/22/18

Caught a bunch of giant Magikarp, and earned a medal. Playing by the ocean for the win!

11/14/18

Finally reached Level 40 after, what, two years at this point? This is primarily because I had performed approximately 10,000 raids with that Team Instinct Trainer.

11/26/18

This BS happened.

Gimme some coins

Occasionally I forget that Pokémon Go is a game designed to make money, and not a freemium soul-mate finding app.

1/27/19

Went on my first cruise with that Team Instinct Trainer. Found that there are gyms that are apparently only accessible by sea.

I want to live there

2/8/19

There is confirmation Pokémon Go is still a thing in the real world.

5/10/19

Back when going to the movies was a viable option, we saw Detective Pikachu at its premiere. We were not the only people in the audience playing Pokémon Go during the previews.

6/14/19

We visit Chicago for Pokémon Go Fest, a national gathering for Pokemon Go players (or just a bunch of nerds that wanted to catch a Pachirisu). We spend the weekend visiting landmarks, museums, and bizarro pizza dispensaries. There was a lot of walking accompanying the inordinate number of Pokélures around the city.

7/21/19

During yet another Community Day (we haven’t missed one together yet), I catch the horrible Shiny Mudkip Zero. It is a blight on my life I will never escape.

I can't quit you

8/25/19

I catch a particularly good Roselia deep in Mexico during a cruise that, thanks to a mega-hurricane, goes on a little too long. In the end, everything worked out fine, and we made out better with Hurricane Laura than so many people that lost their homes, but it was a bit dicey there for a while. At least I had accumulated some completed tasks so I could still have my research breakthroughs amidst such strife. It’s the little things that keep you sane.

9/20/19

For our trip to Pokémon Go Safari in Montreal, Canada, I printed out a “wanted” poster for a foreign Pokémon, and pinned it to my dear Instinct Trainer’s backpack. This attracted the attention of a kindly gentleman from Japan that didn’t speak a lick of English, but had a similar “can you trade this Pokémon” sign. Pokémon trading crosses language barriers rather effectively.

Gimme

12/30/19

Or maybe it doesn’t, because there is somehow a stop in Poland named “Optimus Prime”. That is clearly not the robot in disguise we all know and love!

This cannot be right

1/7/20

I catch a shiny fighting/psychic type at the Olympic Coliseum in Greece. This is vaguely appropriate.

2/5/20

I leave a Pokémon in a Polish Gym in December, and I wind up earning a gold medal as a result of it not being kicked out until early February. I’m pretty sure my happiny did not have any problems with customs, but she was surprisingly cold when she got back to the States.

2/29/20

This happened.

Go Goggle Bob

It happened right in front of Questionable Statue, mere feet from where we first met for a Lugia raid nearly two years prior. Amusingly enough, that picture was taken by a child who was, of course, on the boardwalk playing Pokémon Go.

4/19/20

As COVID rages and people were afraid to leave their homes, my Instinct Trainer and I take the opportunity to conquer as many local gyms as possible. Hey, we don’t have to interact with a soul to walk around the neighborhood. Blissey takes over the town in the name of Team Mystic.

She's all over the place

6/21/20

The rare Double Arlo.

This hardly happens

9/20/20

I am awarded a medal for defeating 1,000 Team Rocket trainers. I am truly a hero, but I would like to thank the recent “local” Pokémon Go Fest for granting me so many targets.

11/20/20

I state these words to my Team Instinct Trainer:

Looks delishI’m a giant nerd. Pikachu is apparently a featured guest at our reception, so I don’t think anyone needs to be reminded of that. But as a result of being a giant nerd, I have absorbed the stories of roughly 5,000 different movies, videogames, and graphic novels. I’ve seen so many super heroes save so many worlds it’s kind of ridiculous. And that means I’ve also seen so many heroes die for the people they love. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen Superman kick the bucket for Lois Lane at least six different ways. And all of these stories, it’s always the same: the hero make what we’re told is the ultimate sacrifice, they die for the person they love.

I’m going to vow right here before man, woman, and children that should not be watching this stream, that that is bullshit. I’m not going to die for you. I’m going to live for you.

I’m not going to take a bullet for you, fight some malevolent monster for you, or die in the vacuum of space for you. I can’t vow that I’m going to do something so super for you. But I can vow that I am going to do the dishes, mow the lawn, and take out the trash. I vow that I’ll go for walks with you, even when the weather is on the Polish side of things. I vow that we will talk, and that I will always be honest with you, and you will always know what I’m thinking. I vow that, above everything else, I will make you happy, to make sure you can be happy, and to do everything I can to see a smile on your face. And when things aren’t cheerful, during any bad times that may be ahead (like, you know, in the middle of a global pandemic), I vow that, while I might not be able to make problems go away with some kind of special move, I will do everything I can to make sure we get through it together. In our world, every storm has an end. Every night has a new morning. And I vow to be with you every morning from this day forward.

I vow to live for you, Trish, and I may not be a superhero or keyblade master or whatever, but I am a man that vows to love you forever.

I also caught a Tepig.

11/23/20

Despite the fact that the previously transcribed vows were broadcast across the world, not a single person seemed to notice the Chrono Trigger reference that was, like, right there. This doesn’t have anything to do with Pokémon Go, but it is nonetheless depressing.

11/30/20

The Pokémon Go Beyond “expansion” is released. Before informing my wife of this update, I remind her she is currently working from home, and needs to keep perspective on what needs to be completed, as we are adults. Fifteen minutes after we have this conversation, she is still in the beanbag chair, and still trying to complete as many Beyond tasks as possible without leaving the room.

12/11/20

I publish an article that is apparently meant to be sentimental, but mostly just talks about Pokémon. Or is it the other way around? C’est la vie.

FGC #554 Pokémon Go

  • System: Mobile, so get your Droids and Apples out.
  • Bulba!Number of players: It’s a generally solitary experience, but there is 2 player battling, and 2 player trading. And there are 20 person raids. And you’re kinda sorta playing with everyone on Earth. Let’s split the difference and call it two player like its Pokémon brethren.
  • Did you catch ‘em all: There has been no point in this game’s existence that I have had every available Pokémon. I have every Pokémon I can catch locally, but regionals have often escaped me. There was one time immediately after Pokémon Go Fest 2019 when I had every Pokémon except Uxie, but that’s as close as I ever got.
  • Goggle Bob Fact: I have been to Athens, Greece once in my life. Three days after I flew out of there, Niantic released a regional Pokémon that exists only in Greece and Egypt. I have never been more mad at a videogame.
  • Goggle Bob Fact #2: I play this game every day. I take frequent (nigh daily, according to weather) walks with my wife while playing this game. I have played a lot of videogames in my time, but, if all hours are tabulated, this might be the videogame I’ve played the absolute most in my entire life, even if it is generally “passive”. And that’s saying something!
  • SPLASHFavorite Pokémon (Go edition): Machamp has been a big, burly beast from day one. Conkeldurr came for the throne, and he’s technically better, but I don’t have six maxed out Conkeldurrs, now do I?
  • Did you know? Playing Pokémon Go anywhere near a large body of water always generates some weird spawns. Water Pokémon you might expect, but Cacnea? I am so tired of seeing that guy.
  • Would I play again: I do.

What’s next? Vaguely related to events mentioned in this article, I’m taking a week off from totally new content. But! I’m going to be updating my World of Final Fantasy Let’s Play here on the site, so if you haven’t seen that elsewhere, it’s new to you! So come back Monday for some fun times with funko fantasies. Please look forward to it!

The Champion

FGC #553 Mario Kart: Double Dash!!

Let's dash!Let’s talk about nerd love, acceptance, and solid gold cars.

I am a nerd. What’s more, I have pretty much always been a nerd. I’ve never been into pocket protectors, statistics, or even wore glasses all that often, but, to the average human being, I have long been a shining example of nerddom. And it’s not my fault! It’s just what I’m interested in! I like videogames. I like robots (and draw a distinction between “giant robots” “regular sized robots that fight” and “robots that occasionally transform into dinosaurs”). I was generally academically gifted in school. I won an award in junior high for “most likely to succeed with computers”. I never even planned to go into the computer field! I wanted to be a grade school teacher for some reason!

But, if we’re talking about junior high anyway, I may as well note that the first woman I ever “asked out” responded by dramatically feigning barfing and being out-and-out offended. That… leaves an impression.

Look, I want to be clear on one point: I am a handsome dude. For someone getting damn near forty, I have my hair, my figure, and a certain je ne sais quoi that brings all the boys to the yard. And, given I’ve had the same haircut since first grade, I pretty much have had the same basic thing going on since I was six. Issues arise, however, in the basic world of fashion. Despite Nintendo’s attempts to make me style savvy, I’ve never quite had an aptitude there, so I want to say I perhaps do no blame my potential suitor for reacting poorly when I was eleven. I mean, I had a goddamn ponytail, and I somehow thought that was a good thing. But, at the time, I didn’t quite understand that I shouldn’t wear sweatpants every damned day, so I thought there was something wrong with me. That thinking continued until… let’s see here… probably sometime last week? It was a while.

And my first real girlfriend didn’t help. A few short years after my first, disastrous attempt at romance, some lucky gal finally said yes, and we were off to the races (this is a desperate metaphor attempting to remotely tie-in today’s featured game earlier in the article. We’ll get there, folks!). Now, in this case, I was high on my own supply of raw ego. I was a high school freshman, she was a sophomore. I was dating an older woman. I was a goddamn stud. Go babies!And, even if the “relationship” only wound up lasting like two week and involved about as much physical interaction as an online game of Pong, it still set me over the moon that someone theoretically wanted me. Goggle Bob! Who did finally cut off that ponytail a year before! Probably a coincidence! But this is not to say all was well with the world. My dear girlfriend had aims to make me “more normal”, and she literally stated that she would go through my closet and get rid of “all those videogame t-shirts”.

First of all, Jesse, I didn’t have that many videogame t-shirts. Some were simply related to computers in general! And secondly, I got that Final Fantasy 7 shirt as part of a promotion for preordering, and it is limited edition and I am not ever going to see another one. I don’t think this relationship is going to work, Little Miss Trendy. There’s only room enough for one blonde in this relationship, and he carries a Buster Sword.

(Ha ha just kidding, she totally dumped my nerdy ass. But things definitely would have come to a head if she hadn’t!)

But this kind of thing continued practically through all of my teenage relationships. Even when I dated nerds! I had at least two girlfriends that were avowed Pokémon fans, but still reacted to my general hobby with tolerance at best, revulsion at worst. I often offered the second player controller in these games (whenever available, I mean, if I’m playing Ocarina of Time, you’re going to have to wait, babe), and I did my best to share my passions in socially acceptable ways (I very rarely publically embarrassed us in an effort to get the attention of an Electronics Boutique employee), but it always seemed for naught. It wasn’t about not liking a particular game, console, or genre; it seemed to be a simple “I don’t like videogames”. And this is an issue! I like videogames a lot!

We can do thisAnd it’s hard to explain to someone that doesn’t have an “unpopular” hobby how this works. Like, you, dear reader, you like music, right? Like listening to tunes? Maybe you listen to the radio when you’re in the car? And I’m not saying you like the same music as someone else, you’re obviously allowed to like pop music as much as jazz-techno fusion or whatever suits your fancy. But imagine, if you would, the moment you start dating someone, you’re cruising along in your finely crafted automobile (obviously a sweet 1960 classic Edsel Pacer), listening to the radio, and your significant other doesn’t simply say, “Oh, I don’t like this song, let’s change the station,” they say, “Oh, I don’t like music. Let’s sit in silence and never listen to music again.” And every time they hop in the car, and you’ve left the radio on from a previous, solo trip, they comment, “Oh, you were listening to that again. Why do you keep doing that?” And, tell me I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure that, after dealing with that for a little while, you would, you know, go insane. And that’s not a great outcome for a relationship!

And that was the end result of 90% of my high school relationships.

What I’m saying here is that I completely understand people that think “girls don’t game”. It is wrong. It is wholly inaccurate. I even knew (or should have known) it was wrong when I was friggen’ eight years old, as the first person that showed me King’s Quest and the fabulous world of PC gaming was my (male) friend’s older sister. She played videogames! I just didn’t want to date her. None of the women I wanted to date played videogames, so, obviously, women didn’t play videogames (Yes, I was the Socrates of my high school marching band, thank you for noticing). The women that I wanted to date/actually dated acted like “gaming” was an activity roughly on par with drinking human blood (come to think of it, they were much cooler with vampires than gamers), so I internalized for a long time that women hated videogames. Could there be another explanation? Never! They sneered at Xenogears! The War & Peace of our generation! The only explanation for that must be gender-based universal loathing.

GLOMPAnd I assumed this was a wholly accurate assessment until I was in college. I dated another woman, and I assumed, like in many previous relationships, she barely tolerated my videogame addiction. She watched me play Metroid Fusion, Pokémon Ruby, and Mega Man Battle Network on the Gameboy Advance that was practically glued to my hands, and I simply assumed she was, at best, abiding my hobby. It never even crossed my weary mind that maybe playing a system that precluded a second player even existing was making an impact on whether or not we would play together. I just hunched over a Gameboy on the couch on a Saturday morning, poking at my beep bop machine, and assumed my beau was annoyed because her lady parts secreted some hormone that hated those darn games. There was no other explanation.

And then, on Valentine’s Day, she didn’t get me chocolate. She bought me Mario Kart: Double Dash!! (1,200 words to acknowledge the game of the day! New record!). And we had a game we could play together.

And damned if we didn’t play that game together for months.

Mario Kart Double Dash!! doesn’t get enough credit for being inordinately multiplayer. Yes, there are the Mario Kart-mandated two player versus racing and battle modes. And we’ve got versus four players out of the box, because the N64/Gamecube era of Nintendo absolutely loved four player options. And, even better, this Mario Kart included some kind of crazy Gamecube LAN option, so you could network together a bunch of systems, and get a tournament going with, like, a hajillion playerscitation needed. But all of those possibilities paled in comparison to the one mode that I saw continually from the moment I popped that little disc into my playbox: two player cooperative. For the first time in the franchise, two players could control one kart, and both could have input for one racer. The controls were simple: one player drove, the other was responsible for items, and the two could switch at any time. This created an incredibly balanced situation, as two players could alternate duties, or, if someone wasn’t as confident, take refuge in a “Tails mode” like situation where there is participation, but the responsibility of earning that trophy falls squarely on one player’s shoulders. So, in other words, it’s a two player mode that is truly perfect for experts and novices alike.

And it’s great for a boy that has been playing videogames continuously since toddlerhood, and a girl that is trying to understand said boy’s obsession.

STOMPNot to dash any dreams of a romantic ending here (that’s for Friday), but this is in no way the story of how I affirmed the love of my life over Mario Kart. Boy and Girl broke up with time to spare before the following Valentine’s Day (and it certainly wasn’t because Boy was a cheapskate and didn’t feel like buying another gift in a relationship that was already DOA, because Boy is clearly blameless in this situation). And, just in case you thought this whole tale was heading in that direction, this is not the story of how Boy thus realized his true love was videogames all along, and how he now sleeps in bed every night curled around his precious copy of Chrono Trigger. No, this is a story about acceptance. This is a story about how someone can accept you for who you are, even the parts of you they might not understand.

Look, I am pretty damn lucky. I like my birth gender. I am attracted to “the opposite” sex, and members of said sex that are traditionally, conventionally attractive. I’m white. Basically, what I’m saying is that if I show up to a family dinner with a date, I don’t have to spend the entire meal explaining how my choices are valid, and I’m not just “doing this” to make grandma cry. I know I’m lucky in that regard, and it’s simply a quirk of the universe that my dating habits are vanilla enough to be considered normal. But I’m also a giant nerd. I’m also a gamer, and, while it might not cause any concern for grandma, I can safely say I’ve never been in a relationship with a woman that didn’t have something to say about my general inclination to alternate between nights in bed and nights spent in Hyrule. And that’s valid! This is entry #553 on my blog that is almost exclusively about videogames! My name is Goggle Bob, and I have a problem! But issues have always arisen when I was with someone that refused to even tenuously understand that problem. Grandma was happy with my date, but my date wasn’t happy with something that brings me joy. For a long time, I genuinely believed I would never be with someone that would accept me for who I am, inexplicable obsession with Mega Man and all.

What even happened hereAnd then, one day, there was someone that accepted me. There was someone that tried to understand who I was, preoccupation with blue sparks and all. There was someone that wanted me. All of me.

And I never thought such a thing was even possible before.

So, ya know, thanks Mario Kart: Double Dash!!. Really making some positive changes in the trajectory of entire lives there. Blue shells are a major franchise foul, but I guess that can be forgiven for changing my entire outlook on existence.

FGC #553 Mario Kart: Double Dash!!

  • System: Nintendo Gamecube. If you ask me which Nintendo game I would most want to see with a modern release/remix, this would be the one. Well, you know, now that Sunshine already got that treatment.
  • Number of players: Let’s just say four before getting into that whole “chaining Gamecubes together” thing.
  • So did you ever play on a series of linked Gamecubes? Nope. I mean, what, are you kidding? I have a hard enough time gathering four people together to agree on playing one videogame. I’m never going to see that many controllers in use outside of a convention, and I’m pretty sure those are illegal now.
  • I win!So, did you beat it? Wholly and completely, with Mirror Grand Tour and on two player cooperative. That solid gold car is mine, now and forever.
  • Best Team: Daisy and Birdo will always succeed. Wait…. This is supposed to be my “favorite” team? No, that doesn’t sound right. Daisy and Birdo are the best.
  • Favorite Track: I have to admire Baby Park for the raw simplicity of the track, and somehow making a circle (well, technically an oval) fun. It takes some significant level of chutzpah to make a track pretty much nothing, and rely on the basic gameplay of Mario Kart to carry the action. And it works like a charm, so good job all around.
  • Yes, this game was popular: Mario Kart: Double Dash was the second highest selling Gamecube game of all time. Super Smash Bros. Melee was number one. Then it’s Sunshine at numero tres. Sonic Mega Collection was number seventeen. Ya know, just throwing that out there.
  • Did you know? According to internal data, apparently the two “urban” stages, Mushroom Bridge and Mushroom City, were supposed to be dedicated to Koopa Troopa and Paratroopa (respectively). In the final release, those two nerds don’t get their own course, and we’re left assuming that Princess Peach purchased their unclaimed property. The monarchy has a habit of doing that.
  • Would I play again: In a heartbeat. Lord, I love me some Mario Kart: Double Dash. It even makes Garfield titles better! It’s scientifically proven!

What’s next? Recklessly Self-Indulgent Autobiography Week(s) concludes with a look at Pokémon Go. You always knew there was going to be a Pokémon game in this group of articles, and I cannot disappoint! Please look forward to it!

Go go Daisy

FGC #552 Smarty Pants

Let's all look smartI’m a snob, and, until Smarty Pants, I never even realized it.

I do not envy my friends at Christmastime. I am a likeable dude, so, naturally, any and all of my acquaintances know to pay me tribute come the holiday season. However, all is not well for my fan club, as, despite the fact that I have a very obvious, consumer-friendly hobby, I am also a spoiled only child that is used to buying whatever I want, whenever I want. This all means that, effectively, the only way to properly “buy Goggle Bob a videogame” is to either get something videogame adjacent (like a goddamn Final Fantasy funko figure), or go through the cold, mechanical process of confirming that I am not “allowed” to purchase something, and then provide said item on a prearranged date (December 25th works for my calendar). It does guarantee that this lord will receive a tithe that will be enjoyed, but it does kind of suck the fun and surprise out of the exchange when one party is effectively simply working from a pre-approved shopping list. And then if someone goes off script? Whoo boy, look out…

So, despite all these impediments, for Christmas of 2007, my best friend got me a videogame. He confirmed I did not have it in advance by checking out my library. He subtly established, through conversation, that I had no plans on purchasing the game or receiving it as a gift from someone else. He dotted all his I’s and crossed all his T’s, and then purchased, for me, a new Nintendo Wii game. He gifted me Smarty Pants: Trivia Fun for Everyone.

And standing there, unwrapping my brand new videogame present… I had no idea what I was looking at. Smarty Pants? What the hell?

Turns out I was looking at the “it” item of our social circle for the next few years.

Let's quizThere was a time when I was on top of every video game. Or… no… that’s wrong. There was a time I was on top of every Nintendo game, or game released for a Nintendo system, because I subscribed to Nintendo Power, and it outlined every damn game available for its systems shy of some Color Dreams nonsense. So, yes, I might have never seen a copy of Vice: Project Doom when I was a child, but damned if the title Vice: Project Doom isn’t permanently lodged in my brain thanks to some six-page article from the early 90’s (and, yes, I did eventually play the game in my teens, but only thanks to that same article again). For whatever reason, I gradually lost interest in Nintendo Power (that reason was called “the Nintendo 64”), but that was also about when the wonders of the internet made the scene. Ever since, whether it be through Gamefaqs, IGN, or various gaming forums, I have been informed about what’s out there and what games are on the horizon. And that’s important! I consider myself an omnigamer, a connoisseur of videogames of all shapes and sizes. I might not play the latest Call of Duty or Madden, but I’m aware of their existence, and generally lurk around forums and tweets where they are discussed. If something actually interesting happens in that sphere (like a franchise dipping its toes into apparently psychological horror and social commentary)(I’m not talking about Madden), then I can jump on in, and see what all the fuss is about. I might not play every videogame, but I like to be informed on what is happening in that world, and, give or take a dark age sometime around when I discovered dating, that has always been the case.

And I had never heard of Smarty Pants. At all.

Pretty picturesThis may not be a complete surprise, though. After all, this was the heyday of the Nintendo Wii, a system that had been released to much acclaim a mere year earlier. And much of this approbation originated with the simple fact that Wii Sports had somehow made the Nintendo Wii the most “universal” videogame system to come along in a long while. After years of Metal Gears, Final Fantasies, and Grand Theft Autos, it seemed that gaming had looped back around to something you could play with your grandpa. Ultimately, this new “Blue Ocean Gaming” would be short lived on the consoles, as everything but Just Dance gradually migrated over to mobile gaming, but there was a glorious time when Chocobo Dungeon (a spin-off of a 20 year old JRPG franchise featuring a bird participating in a rogue-like) shared shelf space with Wii Fit (a game where you sometimes stand weird). So, yes, if you were more interested in smashing brothers than exploring endless oceans, then a game from the “casual” side of the pond might come as a surprise. You wouldn’t expect to know the premise of every television show currently appearing on Polish cable, so why would you expect to know the ins and outs of every game outside of your usual gaming circle?

But Smarty Pants? Well, it’s weirdly… uh… how to put this… It feels like… bootleg? Like, the whole thing feels like something that should be a franchise, or was intended to be a franchise… or… something? Like, there’s this little lightbulb dude, and he’s wearing jeans, and you can’t tell me he wasn’t designed by committee. Similarly, the whole game here is just… a quiz show? I would completely believe you if you popped into the comments and claimed this was all based on some obscure USA cable jaunt that ran for seven episodes before the host was disgraced by being busted for possession of excess aardvark semen. But, aside from a few weird events that involve jiggling around with a Wiimote, this is just a straight up quiz show format, with “20,000 questions” (box quote) and a “buzz in” motion required for every answer. It is vaguely… perplexing for someone who knows videogames and game shows to play such a game, as the whole experience could be likened to drinking popular soda brand Dr. Bob: you know you like the name, but something seems off about the whole experience.

Excuse me, I misspoke. Something seems off about the whole game. The whole experience is superb.

You can do itThis is a dumb trivia game, but it is constructed extremely well. It is straightforward. It is a format that can be easily grasped by anyone. There are no “special moves”, ridiculous inputs, or even a need to figure out how to “toggle” the control stick. You ring in, point your ‘mote at the (hopefully) right answer, and call it a day. Sometimes the game asks you to dance. And that’s it! It is the same interface you would find on a bar’s trivia tablet (do they still do those things? I mean… aside from bars not being viable in virus times?) It is an extremely simple game, but, thanks to those previously mentioned thousands of questions, you can play it for hours.

And, yes, my friends and I wound up playing my “Christmas present” for literally years. Smarty Pants was a constant companion to my Nintendo Wii, and saw more play than other, more traditionally popular games like Mario Party, Smash Bros. Brawl, or even Wii Sports. All those games were played, of course, but Smarty Pants was what came out when we had a big group (and, in those days, that was pretty often with any number of acquaintances, new beaus, and assorted hangers on). “Casual” and veteran videogame players could all agree that Smarty Pants was a fun time, and it was just as much a staple of our parties as wine and assorted cheeses (… okay, we were in our 20s. It was more like beer and expired Cheetos. But still!).

Winner!And, through it all, through the entire lifespan of the Nintendo Wii (and even some of the Wii U), I couldn’t stop thinking about the fact that this was a game that I would have otherwise ignored. This was a game that, given my own tastes, I would have never even yanked out of a discount pile. This was a game that brought me an inordinate amount of joy, and I might have never played it if it was up to my own pretentiousness. In the end, Smarty Pants turned out to be an amazing Christmas gift, and an amazing game all on its own.

Not bad for a lightbulb wearing pants.

FGC #552 Smarty Pants

  • System: Nintendo Wii, and apparently nothing else. It really seems like the kind of game that would be on literally every other system (right down to the PSP… or would it have been Vita at this point?), but just Wii. And I doubt we’re going to see a rerelease…
  • Number of players: Four is the max at one time, though I believe there are some shenanigans for “families” with sharing wiimotes and such. But 4-player head-to-head seems to be the standard.
  • Goggle Bob Fact: My friends often chided me and claimed that, since I owned the game, I would play it at home, alone, to practice and conquer my rivals. You jerks, I’m just good at trivia. I never actually played the single player mode until I had to write this article, because, fun fact, the single player mode apparently sucks. It’s just trivia! That gets boring fast! …. Wait a second.
  • I can get thisFun for all ages: The questions do change according to the average age of the players. Or at least there are a lot more questions about Shrek if you claim to be 12. Of course, the whole thing is based on your registered birth year relative to the release date of the game (2007), so if you’re currently 25, the game will assume you’re a twelve year old.
  • Favorite category: It’s Fashion. I’m not good at the Fashion category, but it feels great when I get any question right in that category, because, come on, I barely understand how pants work. I’m punching way above my weight class anytime I score a point in the Fashion category.
  • Hey, isn’t this just Trivial Pursuit? Shut-up.
  • Get up and dance: The “physical challenge” sections of Smarty Pants are extremely shallow, but always welcome during multiplayer. Having to perform wacky dances for an audience of zero during single player, though, is probably the reason this game reviewed so poorly at release. Nobody ever cared about how dumb you looked playing Guitar Hero alone, people of the early 21st century!
  • Did you know? The fact that the Miis don’t transfer 1:1 from Wii to WiiU is the saddest loss of our generation.
  • Would I play again: Maybe for nostalgia purposes, but probably not, unfortunately. This game dominated my peer group for a long time… but its time has passed. Now we’ve moved on to… Wheel of Fortune? What the hell? Are we old?

What’s next? Recklessly Self-Indulgent Autobiography Week(s) continues with Mario Kart: Double Dash!!, a title that elicits a romantic sigh from yours truly every time it is mentioned. Why? Well, read the article next Monday to find out. Please look forward to it!

CHAMPION!
Winner and still champion

FGC #551 The Legend of the Mystical Ninja

Let's go ninja!The next two weeks will feature articles that are aggravatingly autobiographical as part of Recklessly Self-Indulgent Autobiography Week(s). I realize I’m not too conservative with the ol’ autobiographical moments on a good day (hey, this is my blog), but I feel these stories need to be told before I wrap up the FGC project (in another hundred articles, gotta plan ahead), and, well, if you can’t indulge yourself, then who else can you indulge?

So, fair warning, FGC #551 and #552 are going to be about videogames and friendship, and #553 and #554 are going to be about videogames and love. If you are just here for random videogame musings that aren’t entirely centered on my life experiences (then why are you here!?), we will resume true randomness with #555. I think E. Honda may be involved? I’ll have to check.

And with that caveat out of the way, let’s talk about what I learned in college.

The Legend of the Mystical Ninja is a very special videogame to yours truly. For one thing, I’m rather fond of legends, mystics, and ninja. So we’ve got a clear winner here. For another thing, it was inexplicably one of my few Super Nintendo cartridges back in the early days of the system. It wasn’t a launch game, but it was a game that came along early in the system’s lifespan, and well before I had a handful of JRPGs that were capable of capturing about 40 hours of my life at a time. And I feel I need to remind my presumably adult audience (I use swear words, like “butt”) that, when you are a child with nothing to do, any enjoyable distraction is forced to last for the approximately 40,000,000,000 spare hours you have over the course of the day. In short, I played The Legend of the Mystical Ninja a lot.

WeeeeeBut it wasn’t just about the single player experience in The Legend of the Mystical Ninja. TLotMN, like many games of the era, contained a 2-player mode. Unlike many games of that era, however, its two player mode wasn’t a Mario-esque affair where you constantly traded turns back and forth. TLotMN allowed both players to play at both times! Like Contra! These Konami guys are pretty great! So TLotMN got played an awful lot not only by myself, but also in tandem with my next door neighbor and best friend, Jimmy. Final Fight might not have been two-players, but The Legend of the Mystical Ninja was, so we cooperated and did our best to save Ancient Japan from the forces of whatever the hell we were continually hitting with pipes.

Sad truth? We never, ever beat the game.

And, to be clear, this was not a game we played when we were young and hopelessly inept. Yes, back in the NES days, Jimmy and I were but babes, and we were generally about as effective at beating videogames as we were at solving quadratic equations. But by the Super Nintendo era? Brother, we were all-stars! I mean, like, literally, we beat Super Mario All-Stars. We also were able to one-credit stomping all over M. Bison in Street Fighter 2 (on, uh, the easier modes). Yes, by the time we had to grapple with L & R buttons, we were ready to conquer the world. … Just so long as that world didn’t contain The Legend of the Mystical Ninja.

EAT YO-YOAnd, looking back, I don’t exactly blame my younger self (plus guest) for not finishing the game. Yes, there are generous continues, but the password “save” system is one of those final relics of the NES era that needed to lay buried the absolute minute the save battery was invented. And TLotMN demands its players know exactly what to do when. For instance, if you blow all your cash in the arcade in Level 3, you’ll never be able to afford the mandatory travel visa in Level 6 (there’s probably a life lesson there, but I’m mad right now, and not having it). Cool powerups (that are advertised right there on the cover!) require time, money, and effort that continually makes them about as useful as actually trying to solve your problems by riding a tiger. And, yes, this is an early Konami game, so there are a few places where the directors apparently expect you to have Gradius-level reflexes. Yes, playing The Legend of the Mystical Ninja now, as an adult with save states, seems to portray the title as something on the easier side of the Sesame Street 123 – Battletoads scale, but there was a time when this game refused to allow entry to the final level. Beating that giant weeble wobble was just too hard for two children!

Eventually, emulators became available. Eventually, likely out of a misplaced sense of vanity, I conquered The Legend of the Mystical Ninja. But it was a lonely journey. By this time, there wasn’t anyone in my life that was still interested in Super Nintendo games (the N64/Playstation was the new hotness), and it seemed unlikely I would ever rectify the life-long mistake of not having completed TLotMN “the real way” (or at least the real way according to Bubble Bobble). Would I ever again have a friend that wanted to play as Dr. Yang ever again?

Enter: college.

MeowIt’s hard to explain to the youth of today, but, when I was first entering college, there was some weird kind of faux-retro thing going on for the NES/SNES era. To sum it up nicely, one time a number of us sat in the quad staring up into a dorm window while some unknown individual played Punch-Out! with a TV pointed toward his enrapt, outdoor audience. They were pretty good at it! It may have simply been the marketing of the time (I want to say this is right about when Hot Topic started stocking 8-bit Mega Man shirts), but the NES/SNES era was totally “in” when I was first matriculating, so, surely, this was the time to avenge myself upon various games. I was gonna save the princess with a buddy once and for all!

And, yes, gentle reader, I did find a buddy. I found multiple college buddies in fact, as it was apparently a pretty popular job to work odd hours as tech support for the college computer labs, and I was a human being that liked computers and odd hours. I “hung out” with a number of young techs from late at night to the early morning because, hey, that’s just the kind of guy I am (an insomniac, to be precise). And, given there was no authority but these techs in these computer labs, any time except mandated exam time wound up being given over to LAN parties and emulators aplenty. We even hooked a Dreamcast up to a VGA monitor once! It was horrible! But it happened, and someone managed to score a perfect in Soulcalibur against the computer before the screen was even properly operating. In fact, that very person was Jim, obvious spiritual descendant of the earlier mentioned Jimmy, and he and I attempted The Legend of the Mystical Ninja one evening.

It… didn’t go exactly as planned.

We sailed through the first level. That was fine. We were enjoying ourselves, beating up townsfolk, collecting lucky cats, etc. Then we got to the second zone. Contained within the second act is one of the many available minigames in The Legend of the Mystical Ninja. We had already tried goblin tossing and paint in the first area, so we decided to hit the faux arcade and play whatever was actively 2-player.

Here it comes

There is a game that is, effectively, Pong. Given it is only available in a 2-player game (there is no CPU opponent available), I jumped on the chance to play this otherwise gated content. Jim probably just wanted to give Pong a try. So, we did.

Get ready

And, since save states aren’t just for cheaters, we were also able to continually “reboot” the minigame anytime we wanted. Thanks to the ability to immediately reload from the top of a game, we technically could play this version of Pong all night.

Now this is happening
Dramatic Recreation

And we did. We played The Legend of the Mystical Ninja Pong from 11 PM until approximately 5 AM. It was nearly the entire shift, and it was entirely Pong.

We never beat The Legend of the Mystical Ninja. We never beat the second level.

And that’s okay.

We had fun playing Pong. We didn’t accomplish what I set out to accomplish, but we had fun playing a videogame. Acknowledging the simple pronoun difference there is important.

It's hammer timeThough I loath to acknowledge the term, I am a gamer. I play videogames. I beat videogames. Nine times out of ten, if I’m playing a videogame at all, I am playing to win. And it doesn’t matter if I’m battling a human opponent or attempting to steer my protagonist toward some AI final boss: I need to cross that finish line. I need to be the very best, like no one ever was. I have no time for this inconsequential “Pong”, I have to get out there and beat the game!

Except when I don’t. Except when I can just have fun with the game, because it is, ya know, a game. It is made for fun. A videogame is not designed to be beaten, it is created to be enjoyed.

Want to know what I learned in college? It was that life sometimes doesn’t go exactly how you’d expect, but it’s still worth enjoying yourself. Sometimes you save Ancient Japan, and sometimes you play Pong for hours on end. Sometimes what you expect is not what happens, but it can be enjoyable regardless. You can’t control life. You can’t control other people. But you can control what makes you happy.

I also learned you can sneak liquor into the computer lab. But I think I already knew that…

FGC #551 The Legend of the Mystical Ninja

  • System: Super Nintendo. Didn’t it get rereleased on the Wii or WiiU? I think it was WiiU.
  • Number of Players: Did you read the article!? Goddammit!
  • I hate youMaybe actually talk about the game for a second: Didn’t I? Whatever! I’ll talk about it more, then! The Legend of the Mystical Ninja is an extremely weird game in how it mixes 2-D “action” stages with towns that are loaded to the gills with, essentially, distractions. There is very little overlap between rewards you can obtain for painting buildings or hot tubs that restore health and the “real” progression in the plot, but, dammit, it’s fun. Long after I finished with other, more straightforward titles, I returned to The Legend of the Mystical Ninja for random fun and hijinks. Wait, dammit, now I’m veering back into autobiographical territory.
  • Favorite Minigame: I like painting. I feel like this whole “don’t ever go over the line again” thing has appeared in many other games as a minigame, but rarely as, like, a real game. I guess it’s like Snake? But not really? I like this better than Snake.
  • Eternal Trauma: I feel like entering Zone 6, and finally having a required amount of money to progress scarred me for life. I used to be such a happy child, using elixirs and spending money willy nilly, and now I am someone that hoards every last item and gold piece, confident in the idea that the game will require six hundred whositdaddies to advance. I blame Kid Ying.
  • Now I get it: For the record, that giant octopus at the end of Zone 3 is now a little more recognizable. No wonder he is attacking the (apparently eternal) Konami building!
  • More killer clownsLand of the Rising Fun: Yes, this is a game that was radically changed for localization, as it is aggressively Japanese. In the East, you’ve got Ganbare Goemon vaguely based on the historical/nigh-mythical Goemon, and in the West, you’ve got Kid Ying, who is just some marginally shifty dude that lives with a blue weirdo. That said, the game is still pretty damn Japanese, and it’s not like they changed Ancient Edo to be Old York City or something.
  • But they did change riceballs into pizza, right? Yes. Americans are physically incapable of understanding Japanese treats. See also: Ace Attorney, Digimon.
  • Did you know? There’s a “theater” in Zone 3 that features Dr. Yang dancing and farting. For some reason, it was removed from the American release. But! It is still referenced in Nintendo Power, a separate hint book, and the instruction manual. So we were obviously a hair’s width away from Ebisumaru blowing us all away.
  • Would I play again: Hell, why not? I like this game, even when I’m just playing Pong with friends. It is delightful, so The Legend of the Mystical Ninja always has a seat at my table.

What’s next? Recklessly Self-Indulgent Autobiography Week(s) continues with Smarty Pants for the Nintendo Wii! Never heard of it? Well, that’s kind of the point! Please look forward to it!

Pew Pew
This is getting pretty meta